Tuesday, January 29, 2013

The Tide of Victory, by David Drake

In the time before award season I'm catching up on a series I began long ago and have enjoyed, David Drake's Belisarius Saga.  The Tide of Victory is number five, by way of Baen Books and Free SF Online. 

This is a good entry, though it is very heavy on large-scale military strategy.  Much more so than past entries.  In fact, Drake spends a fair amount of time depicting Belisarius and his associates pondering logistics and politics--much more common in a straight war history book than in speculative fiction.  Interesting to see the lesson, though.

Drake is very much given to glorifying warfare--has pretty much made a career of it.  But he's not the only one, and he does it pretty well, so if you are into military SF you've probably read him already.  This entry in the series very much displays his commitment to history.  Read the rest first, or don't bother with this one.  Three stars from me.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

The Towers of Midnight, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

We are so very near the end.  This series has been going on for a HECK of a long time.  Long enough to kill the author. But this review is not for A Memory of Light.  It's for the book before it, The Towers of Midnight

Things are really progressing at this point, and that's something to like--more on that later.  And as events progress, the characters grow and change (mostly).  Egwene, Rand, and especially Perrin are becoming defined more by the roles they play.  Perrin and Rand are very conscious of the process, but it's not clear that Egwene is.  That kind of writing is very advanced and makes me appreciate the book on several levels.  Mat is still a bit of a caricature, but he figures in a very exciting sequence so it's OK.  All in all, this book really gripped me all the way through.

We don't see much of the Forsaken or other Dark Side folks, though.  Just little snips here and there.  They tend to resemble each other, all 100% backbiters who would seem to stand every chance of success except that they spend so much effort on each other.  Possibly that's because there is really only one featured in the book.  That's evil for you.

What makes this whole series stand out for me is the very clear point of the book, and the strong sense of progress.  Now, the pace of the plot has varied--some of the later Jordan volumes hardly moved--but in each one, the good guys gain new insights into how to fight, and they overcome one or more of the Forsaken.  Many fantasists get stuck in a cycle where the hero loses and loses, suffers and suffers, then finally pulls it out at the end.  Or gains a victory only to see it be a small one.  The foe is definitely getting stronger in the Wheel of Time, just as prophesied.  But Rand and company steadily hack away.  And of course the point is clear all along--it's all for T'armon Gai'don, the Last Battle.

I have tried to recall when I started reading the series.  I believe it was in the late 90's, and by then seven novels were out. I went through them quickly from the library, then bought some of them.  It doesn't really break new writing ground, but it's been great fun and I'll get around to the ending soon.  I give this one four stars.